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Its Christmas season and fashion designers are wont to disappoint, writes Adeyemi Tosin

Would someone please call and tell this woman down the street in a tailor’s shop, shouting on top of her voice and threatening fire and brimstone, and saying she won’t leave the shop until the man returns, that all that is empty and fruitless, and that she’s just disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood for nothing? If you can reach her, please tell her the man she seeks has gone to his village for the holiday, turned his phone off and luxuriating in the laps of his wife. He most likely won’t be back until the money is finished – and that’s not likely to happen before the first week in January.

Who doesn’t know in this country that, come Christmas time (and Easter, to boot) that tailors (okay, fashion designers) take on their middle name, “Disappointment”, and then disappear into thin air, on the last weekend before Christmas, with clients’ unsewn/uncompleted dresses/clothing either locked up in a drawer or hung lackadaisically on the shop walls, only resurfacing when all that ceremony of Christmas is over? I mean, who doesn’t know? It’s an annual thing, for Christ sake. As regular and as constant as Christmas itself.

Even if you had been living in Mars and never had a need to sew ‘last minute Christmas clothes’, at least one or two of your earthly friends, siblings or other family members, would have brought you up to speed with that very common DNA trait of brilliant tailors, sorry, fashion designers, everywhere in Nigeria. Yes, I pooled only brilliant tailors in this pot because mediocre ones hardly ever get enough patronage to be that nonchalant with their job. This one has obviously scrammed, knowing the usual noise women (which guy has the time to make noise over unsewn clothes?) would come to make at his shop tonight, tomorrow being travelling day for most people going to their village for the holiday.

Unlike many that I know, this one is even good enough to leave behind a couple of his apprentices to handle the heat; others would simply lock up shop, turn off their phones and go find a joint to squander their clients’ money. “I even gave him full payment! Full payment to guarantee he won’t disappoint me!! Now, he’s not here, clothes I can’t find. And I have to travel tomorrow”, she was lamenting and screaming at no one in particular, her voice filling the street down several houses.

Madam, first off, are you new in Nigeria? Is this the first time you’ll give clothes to a good tailor and get disappointed? I mean, I grew up knowing tailors to be largely unreliable when it comes to sewing Christmas clothes – that was why my mother would sew our Christmas clothes in October. And who says giving a tailor the full payment is a guarantee against disappointment? If anything, by giving him that full payment, what you’ve done is take away his incentive to finish your work. And why did you wait until the very last second before coming to check on your dress, madam?

This reminds me of an adopted much younger brother of mine some years ago. Kazeem was a darned good tailor. Scratch that – he was a darned brilliant tailor! Kazeem would just look at me, collect my fabrics and tell me he was good to go. “Ain’t you going to take my measurement, Kazeem?” The standard response: “Bros, don’t worry. Shebi I’ve seen you already?” And Kazeem would bring back to me a pack of perfectly sewn kaftans with nary a thread out of place, sitting on me so regally.

Such a little bundle of talent! But Kazeem was useless when it came to reliability. Still, men and women flooded him with fabrics to sew – and these women especially were women of timber and calibre, celebrities most often times. And he promptly disappointed each and every one of them – including me, whenever his head went out of alignment. He once irked the wife of a recent presidential aspirant so much and so repeatedly that she had to lock him up one time for almost a month. When Kazeem came out of that detention – like many others – common sense would have expected he would turn a new leaf. For wia!

My guy would be back to his carefree, nonchalant, kill-me-if-you-want attitude, collecting money and fabrics from anyone still foolish enough (addicted to pain?) to give him patronage, expecting a different end-result, for jobs he was almost certain he wouldn’t deliver on, and promptly go a-jollying.

I usually felt very sorry for him when they came dragging him like that, and have had to bail him out of a few police detentions – until two events happened that totally dried up my bowl of sympathy for him. First, I had a reason to go to one of those relaxation gardens that dot Abuja landscape. I had hardly taken my seat when I saw Kazeem, two young women flanking him, and a large grilled fish spread out in front of them, and all sorts of alcoholic drinks, standing at attention, decorating the invitingly palatable fish like a military guard of honour.

Okay, that wasn’t a problem – except for the fact that I was at his shop the previous day and witnessed about five different clients dragging him left, right and centre. And here he was now, barely 24 hours later, enjoying with women on his arms, while his job suffered. The second event happened right inside my sitting room. Kazeem kept on receiving angry phone calls from a certain powerful woman whom he had told he was bringing her clothes. “Madam, I’m almost at your gate! If you look outside your window now you’ll see a green-painted taxi turning onto your street. That’s me!”

I kid you not – my jaw literally dropped to the floor. Okay, I lived in Wuse II, this woman’s house was in Maitama. I actually had to peep outside to make sure my residence hadn’t been moved to Maitama without my knowledge. I mean, Kazeen was sitting pretty in my sitting room, relaxed on my couch and slowly doing justice to a bowl of hot poundo and efo riro, shirt unbuttoned, shoes off, a badly chilled bottle of Star larger that he had brought with him, standing right next to his plate awaiting its own journey to his throat and yet, he was boldly and confidently telling his client that he was on her street!

I gave up on him and all other brilliant tailors that day. They simply don’t have a snowball chance in hell of making heaven.


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